Thursday, August 29, 2013

How open is your mind?

Do you consider yourself an open minded person? Do you celebrate different ways of seeing, thinking of or believing in the same thing? Within the truths you believe, do you see yourself as flexible? Willing to expand your current beliefs? Yet do you also insist the life ideals and standards you have effectively and strategically put into place for yourself, be upheld in a non-negotiable fashion?  I would venture to say that the answer to these questions, for the vast majority of us, is yes! It certainly is for me. However things aren't always as they appear. What I have come to realize, is that within the solid framework, as well as within the open-mindedness of our own truth, knowing and reality, there is always room for more growth. And in some cases, a total re-write. 

When meeting a new client, I often say to them..."There are many ways of arriving at the same destination...", both literally and figuratively. And in my ironic righteousness and solid truth, I believed that I truly lived that philosophy. I would learn that I most definitely did not.

This past spring break, our family traveled to Costa Rica for the first time. Things are different there...very different. Let me make one thing very clear...although Costa Rica is in Central America, when you set out on an adventure there, check your American at the door. For people like me who had never experienced such a place, I had a lot to learn.The given things in America, like street signs, safety codes, air conditioning, reliable directions, convenience stores, even time, are loosely translated to fit into "current standards". Mixed in with having to manage and navigate the extreme natural elements, not to mention some of the worst roads and driving conditions I have ever experienced, I was annoyed. At first, this lack of things I simply take for granted made me feel imposed upon. Why should I, a valuable tourist, be so inconvenienced and put out of my comfort zone? I know I was visiting a foreign country, and looking forward to the new adventure, however I do not compromise my non-negotiable standards and ideals. Even though I am so open-minded...hhhmmm? How dare the Universe ask me to be so flexible? It was my hard earned vacation after all!

As the days went on and I acclimated into my new and foreign surroundings, a quiet and beautiful shift began to gently occur. The clean air took over and relaxation began to envelope me. I began to see that missing all the things that at first I thought I needed, was actually a gift. I felt lighter, less tied down. My stubborn, unbending annoyances started to soften. The beauty and the fragrance and the song of the country began to romance me. It began to seep into my veins and fill my heart with promise. I wouldn't let go completely. I wouldn't allow myself to abandon all of my rigid and unyielding armor entirely. Not yet...but I started to see Costa Rica and everything it contains and everything it represents for what it truly is.

Costa Rica is a rugged, beautiful and unspoiled land. Mother Earth in her greatest glory and all her living creatures, own this place. Not us. We humans are merely visitors. Although I believe that this is technically true for the entire planet, it is more than evident in this tiny yet bountiful country. The water, land and sun all have their own distinct personalities and energies way beyond the obvious...and they each confidently and gratefully command respect. The Costa Rican people (the Ticos) understand and embrace this concept whole-heartedly. It seems as though their given respect transcends them to a place of simplicity, connection and content that can be confused for a lack of sophistication or even intelligence. But to the contrary, this kind of understanding seems to me, to be the most accurate definition of both, the epitome of each really. They are a proud and friendly people. They move slower, are more deliberate, completely genuine. They exude forgiveness and willingness to help someone who doesn't speak a word of their language in their country, or with the otherwise most mundane of requests. I became acutely aware of how intolerant we have become of non-English speaking people in America. And although I know there is more to it than this, I must admit I felt ashamed by the frequent casting of judgement I have too often and too easily partaken in. The Costa Rican people move, work and govern within their country with fluidity, harmony, respect and gratitude for the gifts they have been given. Along with the supreme beauty of their country, simplicity and modesty are their greatest assets. 

As our journey continued, I made a decision to engage myself in as many activities that I had never tried as possible. I put myself way out of my comfort zone, was even quite scared a few times. But as it turns out, everything I thought I knew, about myself especially, everything I held so tightly to, wasn't written in stone after all. And by allowing myself to trust the Universe and not rely on my previous convictions, the world opened up to me... 

Who knew that I, screaming and laughing at the same time could face my fear and zip-line 200 feet above the jungle floor?

Who knew that it is possible to get somewhere without a GPS or street signs or paved roads in the middle of the night? 

I never imagined that I would ride beside a family of wild dolphins while crossing a vast and turbulent bay in the tiny boat of a complete stranger.

I learned that high tide really does mean HIGH tide. 

Active volcanoes actually do spew noxious fumes, and their harsh, beautifully ashen landscape also takes your breath away.

Giant cockroaches, chirping geckos and many a variety of bat decide when and where in your home they will visit. And they always put a smile on your way or another. 

The warning to wear shoes through the jungle grass should not be taken lightly. However, once those shoes are securely in place, a walk through that grass is a must.

Boogie-boarding in the Pacific ocean for the first time does indeed have the potential to fold your body in half, but it's all worth catching the perfect wave.

There are people who consider a one room, dirt floored cottage in the middle of mosquito-infested woods, paradise. They consider it so all for the sake of returning animals back into the wild after rehabilitating them. 

Howler monkeys truly are the loudest and scariest sounding land animals on the planet. Catching a glimpse of a group of them is priceless. And in our case, being "lucky" enough to have a family of them pee on a family of  

Amid the newness, the danger, the unknown...I have never felt more alive, more electrified, more tuned in. I have never so completely understood what it means to metaphorically lay my weapons down. Everything I thought I knew, I didn't. Not entirely. And with that awareness sprung excitement. The realization of the relatively small place I had lived inside my mind birthed something. It was the most magical, welcome and appreciated sense of yearning and wonderment that I have felt since I was a child, young and untainted and  limitless. I had the ultimate sense that where I stood at that moment was just the beginning for me. What other magic did the Universe have in store? What else could I be shown? Through new experiences, how much more flexible, and open minded could I become about myself and the world?

In awe of the contrast to the life I had known up until that point, I sat in bright silence and deep stillness. I rooted my energy deep within that soil and in reward for my shiny new awareness, I was given the gift of freedom. Here in this wild and magnificent land, the last of my rigidity melted away. I gladly allowed the sharp and unpredictable Pacific waves to wash the burden of inflexibility off my skin. I happily turned my worries over to the billions of stars in the black night sky.  Gratefully, I accepted the jungle's offer to free me of my previous limitations. And with the utmost respect and gratitude, I bowed down to the bizarre and beautiful creatures who merged their soul with mine in a joyous dance of connection and pure potential. I allowed the food, all gifts from the sun, to nourish and heal my body and mind, as I tasted things for what seemed like the first time. Aloe and pineapple and sweet, fragrant, fleshy and perfect mango dazzled my senses. My unyielding, non-negotiable ideals floated into the sand and into the water. They rose into the air and were swept away by the breeze and on the wing of a bat at twilight. The armadillo finally relieved me of my armor and the hummingbird of my ironic disconnect. The sharp and painful sting of a jungle insect, as well as the heat of sun scorched skin returned me to the home of my body. And lastly, the smile and kindness of stranger after stranger, and the way in which they very consciously choose to live and conduct themselves, tore down the most carefully and insidiously constructed wall of all. The gentle, patient deconstruction left my heart open and space to breath. Nothing would ever be the same.

Costa Rica became a totem, forever emblazoned in my mind as the birthplace, or re-birthplace, of my core essence and marked a new beginning for me. So much has changed since returning from this enchanted country. I have truly rewritten many of my truths, many of my ideals. I have challenged every conventional wisdom I held in regard, with scrutiny, examining all credibility and even validity. I took away with me a real sense of wonderment and awe and the knowledge that it just may be possible that everything I think I know...I don't. All the beliefs I hold about myself and the world and my place within it...are so....incomplete. There is nothing more freeing than the sense of not knowing everything, and in turn being limitless. So I choose to open my mind...and to keep it open. Just when I start to believe I KNOW, I will open myself a little more and a little more. I will hold my ideals and my standards with flexibility. I will stand like a mountain and flow like a river...because anything is possible.


Monday, August 26, 2013

How do you express yourself?

**This is an edited version of a previous post that I thought was worth revisting.**

How do you express your joy? What are your passions? Perhaps you don't even know. Does your joy speak through music, painting, with the written word, or through the lens of a camera? Maybe it's through dance or programming, fashion or animation. Could it be that the real you is yet to be discovered? Or do you know EXACTLY who you are, or who you want to be? And if you do, do you allow yourself to express that deepest truth?

I have spent most of my life "doing the right thing". I have grown up, been schooled, gotten married, had children, and maintained a thriving career. I have bought a house and brought home the bacon, been a good and loving wife, a nurturing mother and a caring and giving daughter. I have been the life of the party, the witty and loyal friend. I have paid my taxes, paid the piper...paid my dues. I work hard and I play hard. I have a beautiful life, enviable even. I have no regrets.

Well...maybe just a couple.

Aside from the unthinking, through-the-daze-of-youth-and-inexperience type of rash decisions that always lead to unpleasant consequences, I have two regrets. First and most important, I regret that through it all...through the joy and heartache that a full life promises to deliver, that I did not love myself enough. I did love myself...more or less. But not enough. And because I didn't love myself enough, regret number two was born. I regret, with every fiber of my being, that I did not follow my heart's desire sooner. I did not honor the little voice inside my head (as well as what every teacher I ever had told me) write. Write my truth. Write my feelings, my thoughts, my story. Give voice to the images behind my eyes and the sounds tucked beyond my the beating of my heart and to the earthen soil of my soul....give voice to the little girl who sat alone for hours in the dusty aisles of her neighborhood bookstore, breathing in the secret scent of the stories contained within. 

I've tried. God knows I've tried. I have started and stopped, started and stopped...a dozen worthy projects. I have schemed and dreamed and set up space. But I have never seen any of my ideas into full creation. I stand in my own way. My life, the one I created, keeps stopping me. But really, it's just fear.

I've told myself I am not qualified. I'm not good enough. I've convinced myself that it is too scary to expose the real me. What if people don't like the real me? Well...what if? Will I wither away and die? Will I be abandoned and alone? Judged? Criticized? Ridiculed? Will I be told to stop dreaming and join the "Real World"? What if I fail? What if my best efforts are a flop? What if my artistic endeavors of self expression take away from my responsibilities?


Isn't it also my responsibility to be true to myself? To love myself enough? Isn't it yours as well? And isn't it...time? 

Whatever brings you joy, whatever lights a fire within you, your passion....should at the very least, be of equal if not greater importance to anything, anyone, and everything that your life consists of. Your joy is your essence. Your joy is what makes the world a better place. And there is no-one else on the face of this planet who is more qualified to express your personal sense of joy better than you! So what is it? How do you express your joy?

Give yourself the gift of getting out of your own'll be amazed at what you can become. 

I welcome all comments and contributions. I want us to create this page together and give breathe to the voices within. Here I will take the journey from dreamer to doer, from writer to author. I invite you to walk beside me and I would be honored to do the same with you...wherever you may find your joy.


***UPDATE***I wrote this blog post in 2013...since then, I have indeed followed my own joy, my own voice and loved myself enough to walk forward holding the hand of fear...I wrote and finished my debut novel. I'll keep you posted on its progress.